GIFs rose to popularity as a form of comic relief – condensing a moment of hilarity, surprise, fear or more into a a couple of frames. But more and more, artists are turning to GIFs to create art of global relevance. In Syria Street, photographer Brandon Tauszik teamed up with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on a multimedia project that lends motion to the tensions that are otherwise statically pictured on our newsfeeds.
The project captures the drawn-out conflict in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. According to the ICRC, 200 people have been killed in clashes in the area over the past eight years. The violence between the Sunni neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite neighbourhood of Jabal Mohsen was reduced by the Lebanese army in 2014, but tensions rose again with emergence of the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
Tauszik’s Syria Street paints a portrait of the two neighbourhoods using GIFs, audio, other visuals and text written by the region’s inhabitants. The project hopes to give the people of Tripoli a platform to tell their own stories.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Tauszik notes that the roots of the conflict run deep. Endemic poverty, political allegiances and a history of conflict are a source of continued tension. His GIFs provide a nuanced, yet simple look into the humanity of those living and working in the region. "I focused on capturing subtle movements, hands fiddling, wind or clothing blowing in the breeze, rays of light streaking by," the visual artist was quoted as saying.
Despite the violence subsiding, the two neighbourhoods are still in a state of disrepair. Dilapidated infrastructure and financial uncertainty characterise the streets, yet Tauszik also found hope and resilience. “Every time we’d visit someone’s home, there would be mandatory hummus and pita, coffee and cigarettes,” he told Feature Shoot.